St. Catherine of Siena. Detail of a work by Domenico Beccafumi, c. 1515
|Virgin and Doctor of Church|
|Born||1347-03-25 in Siena, Italy|
|Died||1380-04-29 in Rome, Italy|
|Venerated in||Roman Catholicism|
|Canonized||1461 by Pope Pius II|
|Attributes||Dominican habit, lily, book, crucifix, heart, crown of thorns, stigmata, ring, dove|
|Patronage||against fire, bodily ills, diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA, Europe, firefighters, illness, Italy, miscarriages, nurses, people ridiculed for their piety, sexual temptation, sick people, sickness, Siena Italy|
Saint Catherine of Siena (born March 25, 1347 in Siena, Italy, died April 29, 1380 in Rome) was a Dominican Tertiary (lay affiliate) of the Dominican Order. Catherine was the 23rd child out of 25 (her twin, the 24th, died at birth); her parents were Giacomo di Benincasa, a cloth-dyer, and his wife, Lapa Piagenti, daughter of a local poet. Catherine received no formal education. At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ; in her eighteenth year she took the habit of the Dominican Tertiaries. As a tertiary, Catherine lived at home rather than in a convent, and she practiced acts of mortification there which a prioress would probably not have permitted. She is especially famous for fasting by living for long periods of time on nothing but the Blessed Sacrament.
In about 1366, she experienced what she described in her letters as a 'Mystical Marriage' with Jesus, after which she began to tend the sick and serve the poor. In 1370 she received a series of visions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, after which she heard a command to leave her withdrawn life and enter the public life of the world. She began to write letters to men and women in authority, especially begging for peace between the republics and principalities of Italy and for the return of the papacy from Avignon to Rome. She carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, also asking him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States. In June of 1376 she went to Avignon herself as ambassador of Florence to make peace with the Papal States, but was unsuccessful. She impressed the Pope so much, however, that he returned his administration to Rome in January of 1377. During the Western Schism of 1378 she was an adherent of Pope Urban VI, who summoned her to Rome where she lived until her death in 1380.
Her letters are considered one of the great works of early Tuscan literature. More than 300 letters have survived. In her letters to the Pope, she often referred to him affectionately as "Daddy" ("Babbo" in Italian). Her major work is the Dialogue of divine providence. Pope Pius II canonized Catherine in 1461. Her feast day is April 29 in the new Roman calendar and April 30 in the traditional Roman calendar. Pope Paul VI bestowed on her in 1970 the title of Doctor of the Church - making her the first woman, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, ever to receive this honor. In 1999 Pope John Paul II made her one of Europe's patron saints.
Her body is currently interred in Rome. Her head and right thumb are in Siena, and her foot in Venice.
Saint Catherine is also the patroness of the historically Catholic American sorority, Theta Phi Alpha.
This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia, so may be out of date, or reflect the point of view of the Catholic Church as of 1913. It should be edited to reflect broader and more recent perspectives.